THE BLOG
04/12/2006 12:54 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary's Reckless and Cynical Game

Recent developments demonstrate the profoundly reckless and selfish nature of Hillary Clinton's "run to the right" of Bush on Iran. She's helping to create the climate for an attack - one that will harm the innocent and strengthen the guilty, in Iran and at home. It will increase terrorism against us and spark a wider Holy War that will last for generations. Yet she's prepared to take that risk to increase her electoral chances. Is there no end to her cynical ambition?

Holy War on the United States, version 2.0

There are those who will say that the Holy War has already begun. Make no mistake - you ain't seen nothin' yet. An attack on Iran will confirm to millions more that the United States of Christianity is engaging in a redneck jihad against Islam. It'll be Christian vs. Muslim Fundamentalists, with the rest of us as collateral damage.

Sy Hersh quotes a recent Bush statement ("I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel") that is arguably the most diplomatically inept statement on recent record - not because we shouldn't be prepared to defend Israel, but because the Arab world will take it as evidence that the real purpose for any attack on Iran is to act as an aggressive military force for Israeli tactical interests.

So when I say "you ain't seen nothin'," I'm referring to the level of attacks we will experience when Hamas and the future Iranian government-in-exile turn their attentions against us. And the Hamas culture of "martyrdom" is now deeply embedded in areas of Palestinian society. (If you want to understand what we're up against, I recommend "Road to Martyr's Square," a chilling book on the culture of suicide bombing.)

Personally, I doubt the Bush Administration will use nuclear bunker-busters, Hersh article notwithstanding. I suspect it's a mushroom-cloud-shaped red herring they've floated so that, after they attack with not-so-smart-bombs and aircraft, pundits will somehow buy the idea that it was a "moderate" approach. And it'll probably work.

Either way, an attack on Iran will harm our national security and strengthen the position of Iran's faltering President and his extremist allies. It will also be morally wrong, since we haven't given diplomacy a serious try. "Experts" like Patrick Clawson who say otherwise should be discounted. (Clawson is quoted in the Hersh piece as saying that "the Administration is putting a lot of effort into diplomacy," but a year ago he was defending its decision not to engage in direct diplomacy. Then, Clawson said that "any U.S. offer to engage Iran would only sideline the negotiations between Iran and the European Union.")

An attack on Iran will further harm our national security, unleashing horror on a scale we have yet to imagine. As Gen. Zinni warns, "We should not fool ourselves into thinking it would just be a strike and then it would be over. The Iranians will retaliate ... they have many possibilities ... from our troop positions to the oil and gas in the region that can be interrupted, to attacks on Israel, to the conduct of terrorism."

Enter Hillary

But Hillary wants to be President. And she wants to do it by running to the right of the Republicans on national defense and other issues. Why? Because she clings to the naïve belief that her husband won because he was a centrist - when the fact is he won because he's a great politician. (If right-leaning Democrats are such a great idea, why wasn't Scoop Jackson ever President?)

And if Bill really is her chief advisor, then he's proving that, as great a campaigner as he was, he's equally lousy as a political consultant. (Remember his advice to Kerry - thankfully not taken - that Kerry endorse the anti-gay-marriage referendums being promoted in 2004?) Whoever's guiding Hillary these days is giving her advice that makes for poor politics and poor policy. In effect she's running against her own base while inflaming passions in a powder-keg situation.

"Sanctions" as a Code Word

In January Hillary urged UN sanctions against Iran and said: "I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines."

Many of us agree with the statement about negotiations (although note the pandering and emotionally charged use of 'outsourcing,' twice. Somebody tell her speechwriters what 'jumping the shark' means, and that this phrase has done it.) The US should have been talking directly to Iran all along, Clawson notwithstanding. But get this: after slamming Bush for not negotiating with Iran, Hillary doesn't propose negotiations.

Instead she proposes "UN sanctions," which Americans and the world understand has become code language for "precursur to unilateral war." Hence "UN sanctions" are a way for Hillary to position herself as more aggressive against Iran - which is not only intended to increase the perception that she's "tough," but probably to help her with pro-Israel voters in New York too (which will probably backfire).

Hillary's defenders may insist that she isn't talking about an attack, but about a new form of diplomacy. But if "outsourcing" is such a bad idea, why bring in the UN? Her position is buzzword driven and, as a result, logically incoherent.

Hillary's helping to create a war climate, one in which Bush can attack and then say, "See - even the Democrats knew it was necessary." It's a game of chicken with the GOP - but the rest of us are in the car. As with her flip-flopping and pandering over Iraq, her actions regarding Iran are wrong: wrong tactically, wrong as military/diplomatic strategy, and - most importantly - wrong morally.

Regarding Hillary

I don't have a constitutional aversion to Hillary (although I've taken notes for a future post on why so many people do.) Where others see coldness, sometimes I see only shyness. Where others see calculation, at times I see only an innate reserve. And as dreadful as her presumptive candidacy's been so far, I've kept hoping she'll find some issue that will catch fire for her - one where she can show real commitment and sincerity. (Maybe by revisiting health care, and doing it right this time?)

But she's determined to be Scoop Jackson II. I think it's going to bring her down, which is OK. But where Iran is concerned, however, she could bring the world down with her. That's, in a word, unacceptable.

Now

Now is the time to prevent a catastrophic engagement with Iran and push for diplomacy. Kerry"s spoken against it, and so have the lap-dogs in the Blair Cabinet. Hillary should cool down from her war fever and work to avert disaster - even if she's afraid it'll push up her focus-group 'negatives.' For once, she should acknowledge that some things are more important than her personal ambition.

A Night Light